Every time we experience a situation where crowds of people surround us, it is impossible to have a good conversation.
I’m specifically talking about eating out.
There are so many Uber Eats, take-outs and eating-ins that we can handle. Eventually, we want to socialize and connect with friends and family for special occasions.
It is easy to skip these events, but none one wants to be rude and appear not to care about our family and friends. Yet, we avoid the dreaded feeling of being alone in the company of others. Or, to get by, we pretend to understand what people are saying when we really can’t make out a single word.
Lip reading is even more difficult when you have all the distractions of cutleries hitting against plates and bowls, chatters surrounding you, and music flowing in the background. It’s exhausting to force yourself to concentrate on someone’s lips between chewing.
Eating out at a restaurant should be an enjoyable experience. Except it’s not. We genuinely want to engage and be part of an enjoyable company. This is precisely where I want to give you ideas of how to enjoy your time in spaces where large crowds of people gather.
Social isolation among people with hearing loss is real; many of us are adjusting to our hearing loss as best as possible. Hearing loss can put us in the corner without realizing it because we’re trying to cope with the situation.
Here are ways that you can improve your experience going out. And put away the feeling of not feeling like going to restaurants anymore.
1. Adjust the settings on your hearing devices
Whether you got a cochlear implant or a hearing aid, like Phonak, Resound, Signia, Oticon, or Widex, you may have built-in features to turn down background feedback and amplify voices. These “restaurant” settings can help reduce background noises by using an app to help you configure them.
For older hearing device models, you may need to visit your audiologist to get their help to make an adjustment that works for you.
Yet, sometimes these built-in features are ineffective, especially when you’re in a place with too much echo. Not everyone finds it works for them.
Hearing devices are individual experiences depending on your brain’s ability to process sounds.
2. FM System, ReSound Multi Mic, Roger Select, Roger Pen & apps
The other option is using a device that can be worn or set in front of your table guest. Sometimes it can be an app using your smartphone. Other times it’s an add-on for your hearing device.
These add-on tools can come in a single mic that you can put in the middle of the table to pick up the conversation.
Also, it can come as a clip-on where everyone wears the device to allow you to listen.
It’s great when you’re in a group of 6 or less. But if you’re attending a team event with twenty people, you’ll not have enough mics.
At times, the single mic at the center of the table would not have the power to pick up the sound at the far opposite of the table, depending on where you are sitting.
Notice how restaurant tables are getting smaller these days? You can only put a plate and a glass of water on the table. These mics might be in the way of any space when you decide to go out of town to order an appetizer.
3. Get someone to translate
Your spouse or partner has greatly supported and understood your hearing loss. They might be comfortable repeating the conversation of others. One reason is that they’re sitting right next to you; two, they have developed a strategy for knowing how you can hear and listen.
Unfortunately, it can get tiring for them to be a broken record after some time. You’ll notice that suddenly the rest of the guests are no longer speaking to you directly but only to your spouse or partner.
4. Study the menu and skip the specials
You got to love the servers that put so much effort into giving a three-minute presentation of what the special of the day is. And the only word you caught is “hello!” The first word they said before they spent a couple of minutes going through every ingredient in the special.
Sometimes getting the waiter to repeat the whole thing isn’t ideal. You do have a full menu of options to try. However, if you are regular, the menu can get boring, and you might want to try that special if you only heard what it was.
But don’t agree to eat anything that you don’t know what it is. Especially if ducks, guinea pigs or snails aren’t your regular staple.
I love a restaurant that writes its daily special on a chalkboard on the wall. Yet, I understand that this doesn’t make for fine dining.
5. Pick a seat away from the center with good lighting
If you ever decide to sit in the middle of the restaurant, you know you’re asking for trouble. Not only are you dealing with high traffic of people passing by, but the noise from all around the room passes through, mixing each other up and around and creating a symphony of incomprehensible noise.
Your best option is to always ask for the quietest area of the room. But not too dark of an area that you can’t see anything but one’s eyes.
Corner booths are great because now you have no noise that your hearing device decides to divert its attention.
People who talk loud seem always to get our hearing aids’ microphone attention, and it’s annoying when that person isn’t someone you know. I don’t want to hear any more about what you did last night!
Sometimes the quietest room is too close to the bathroom, and it doesn’t make it a pleasing experience.
6. Only go out with your ASL friends
Having another language or way of communicating can be so much handy. Why not take hearing out of the equation and use sign language? It allows you to have conversations and engage without the stress and anxiety of fixing your hearing devices, forcing everyone to speak through a microphone, and you can sit anywhere in the room you want. Now that’s a great way to make it through a good conversation.
If your ASL isn’t so good, you’ll feel it takes too much time and effort to get a complete sentence between bites. No one enjoys eating a hot meal cold.
7. Use a good speech-to-text app
Closed captions have been great for watching television and following our online meetings. But the idea that we can benefit from a speech-to-text app outside of the common space is a good thing.
If you have a smartphone, you can use an app to pick up speech around you and convert it into text.
The only downside is that it’s usually for small one-on-one conversations. Getting to a situation where there are too many noises and really loud spaces, the app will suddenly struggle to get a word out.
Make it work for you
Now, you don’t need to be some social butterfly and book every night of your day out and about. Sometimes the occasional visits to the restaurants are okay. Manage what you can but enjoy your time too.
Give one or a combination of these methods to try. It might be a way to spend quality time with those you care about, especially around these special occasions.
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